Wonderfully Scary

Last month’s blog was about finding adventure in life and the notion that your adventure can be anything that excites and challenges you, from changing jobs to starting a relationship to cycling across a whole state. The common denominator is that no matter what adventure you choose, it’s bound to be a little frightening. And that leads us to the topic of this month’s blog. Adventure is wondrous. And it’s scary.

As a child, I was afraid of water and heights.

My dread of the water came about honestly enough as a result of a near drowning when I was 6 years old. The aversion to heights I’d like to think just reveals a healthy dose of common sense, but I know that’s just the fear talking.

Despite my anxiety, my cousins and I spent summer days floating down the Nantahala River, even venturing into the “blue hole”, a place our grandparents warned us would swallow us up. And, ironically, those same grandparents taught me to scale tall trees until they bent under my weight to deliver me gently back to the ground. Gradually I learned to embrace the very things that terrified me and sought to test myself and my own personal limits with water and tall things.

I spent a few years doing triathlons. The anxiety about doing an open water swim for the first time was nearly overpowering. Crystal clear water with the comforting guidance of the black line on the bottom gave way to inky darkness and a total loss of orientation. And the calming gurgle of the water as I swam alone in an otherwise silent lap pool in the predawn hours was swept away by the utter chaos of a pack of swimmers in too close quarters.

I rock climbed exactly once, successfully crawling over the lip of the precipice a hundred feet off the deck with my pride and limbs intact, having arrived there on the end of a belay rope pulled so snug that my ascent was more the result of being hoisted aloft than any real skill. And I walked in the pitch black dark up the famous cables that lead to the summit of Half Dome in Yosemite in order to view the sunrise from atop the 8842 foot monolith. The way up is a 45-degree rock slab, slick beyond my comfort level between the boards spaced a few yards apart. The cables offer the “safety” of being able to hold on to something solid and reliable as you make your way. But as you climb you are constantly holding with just one hand, navigating the unnerving timing of gripping with one hand just before the other let’s go. Preferably always in that order.

These days I continue to seek out things that scare me and face them in the spirit of adventure and growth. I’ll commit to one of them here in this public space.

In 2021 I am planning a rim-to-rim-to-rim double crossing of the Grand Canyon. As the preparation unfolds in front of me I imagine stepping over the edge of the canyon and dropping into the unknown along the Bright Angel Trail with equal parts terror and joy.



My reasons for telling you these stories is certainly not to brag about accomplishments or big plans. Whatever my intentions, no one could blame you if you were left thinking, “That Michael sure is afraid of a lot of things”.

Instead, the intention behind sharing my own stories and desires is that I want to offer you an invitation to take on your own wonderfully scary adventures.

Remember last month’s post; there are no rules for what constitutes adventure. One need go no further than the summit of my Yosemite escapade to see the reality of this. As I basked in my own personal glory of having conquered the cables, I dared peer over the edge. Below me were two climbers sleeping on a ledge not more than 3 feet wide, bivouacked for the night as they made their own, quite different approach to the top. Adventure is in the heart of the adventurer and is not for others to judge.

My inspiration for starting Vistas Life Coaching is helping others discover and take on their own most deeply desired exploits. Among the clients with whom I am currently working, there exists a kaleidoscope of different quests; making the shift into retirement, hiking to an infamous and exciting mountain top, navigating a frightening diagnosis and course of treatment. In these stories I see the reality that some adventures are taken on voluntarily, while others come in time to all of us, leaving us at choice as to how we approach them when they arrive but not at choice regarding their arrival. And, still others are simultaneously unexpected, unwelcome and unavoidable.

What is new about my approach to coaching since starting Vistas is I am bringing the natural world into my coaching interactions. And as I sat down to write this, an email from a friend brought me a deeply interesting article from The Guardian written by Tamsin Calidas, author of I Am An Island, The message of her article aligns so closely with my message to you here, that I thought I would share it with you.


Calidas says, “When you immerse yourself deeply into nature, exposing yourself to discomfort and risk, you recalibrate more sensitively to unseen patterns and rhythms. You feel your own pulse and breath instilled with a peace and calmness.”


This recalibration is essential to change. Seeing your current patterns and rhythms allows you to purposefully embrace those patterns that serve you well and let go of those that do not. It allows you to find seams of energy and time in your life where there formerly appeared to be something solid and immutable. No matter what adventure you are facing, whether it be by choice or circumstance, I believe that the outside world can be an ally. Nature can help you find the calm to steady yourself amidst chaos, the space to clarify what you want, the belief that what you dream is possible and the motivation to take the first step or leap.


Back to that invitation. It comes in two parts.

First, I would love to hear about your favorite adventures from the past. Share them in the comments here or reach out to me directly. Over the coming months I aim to compile your adventures on a “Stories” page here on the Vistas website.

Second, I invite you to consider your next big adventure. Take the time to get outside where it’s quiet and larger than you are. Sit or take a walk and let what’s possible sink in. Then share your dream with others. Make it solid and real. Embrace it and allow yourself to want it. Be willing to shoulder more than you’re certain you can carry. Ask for help when you need it. And see where that leads you.

I bet it’s somewhere exciting.


“Oh, the places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss



If you’d like to read the article by Tamsin Calidas, you can find it here: The Guardian.

Photo Credit: tmanskephoto.com

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